Traveling Overseas for the First Time Since COVID

I suppose I should start by mentioning that I’m not a seasoned traveler. That being said, in the last few years since my retirement from teaching, my husband and I had begun to travel more–until COVID. Then, suddenly, like so many others, we huddled inside our home, daring to go outside only for groceries, a little exercise, and the occasional Sunday drive just to get out of the house.

Whether you believe in the vaccine or not, to me, it was a lifesaver. Once I had my two doses, I felt confident enough to go out and do many of the things I’d been unable to do, including visiting my ninety-five-year-old mother in her nursing home. We were able to go to restaurants again, to see dear friends and extended family. Life slowly returned to the near normal that it was. My grandkids got to go back to school, although masked, but eventually you got so used to doing it, it felt weird to go out without one.

Many plans had to change because of the pandemic. In 2021, we celebrated out 50th wedding anniversary. The original idea had been to go on a Hawaiian cruise. Instead, we “staycationed” within Canada, and took the Rocky Mountaineer through the Rockies. It wasn’t Hawaii, but it was beautiful and a great way to celebrate those fifty years together.

Another victim of the times was large celebrations. My sister surprised us with a party of our closest friends, held outdoors for the most part thanks to Mother Nature’s cooperation. Only those who had been vaccinated were invited. In some cases, that created a great divide between many people as strong opinions and frustrations came into play. For me, an asthmatic, married to a man with three stents in his heart, and a brother-in-law who’d recently undergone heart surgery to replace a valve, it was necessary.

We boarded the train in Vancouver and traveled from there through the Rocky Mountains with stops in Kamloops, Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise, and Calgary. We’d pulled out all the stops, upgrading our flight to Business Class, our seats on the train to Gold Class, and our hotel stays to include Fairmont hotels. It took us fifty years to get here. We weren’t going to skimp.

It was a wonderful, memorable trip. Hawaii is still on the bucket list, and if we get a chance to do it while we can still travel, we will. Now that we are back to a semi-normal life that includes booster shots every six-months, we count ourselves lucky to be able to travel outside the country once more. We survived–not everyone we knew did. It was a harsh reality many people faced. For us though, the hardest part of the last three years was being isolated from family. My husband’s brother and his family live in BC, my sister-in-law and her family were all in Western Ontario, but the biggest loss was not being able to see our middle son and his family who live in Norway. Of course, our first international trip had to be to go there. We thought we might do it in 2022, but the virus wasn’t finished with us yet.

Once again the pandemic forced us to revise our plans as another wave swept the country, but at least this time the virus wasn’t as deadly as it had been. That wasn’t to say it wasn’t bad. I have friends who suffer from what the doctor’s call Long Covid, and I thank the Lord I’m not one of them. Once again, we chose to alter our vacation plans. This time, we drove to the East Coast. I was able to get a lot of research done and wrote a couple of books based on my travels. These included Sea Breeze and Finding Melinda.

Well, it’s now 2023. COVID isn’t gone, but it no longer is the virus to be feared that it was. My husband and I had our 4th booster last month. We’re as protected as we can be, and that gives me the courage I need to finally leave the country. My first stop? Norway, of course. My husband and I are looking forward to spending time with our son and his family. Our granddaughter has just completed her second year of university in Pharmacy. Thank God for FaceTime! It will be so good to see her in person again. While we’re in Norway, in addition to spending time visiting our son and his Norwegian extended family, we’ll be taking the Telemark Canal trip from the Ulefoss Locks to the Dalen Hotel. Jason claims it’s an incredible adventure with fantastic things to see and the Dalen Hotle is a beautiful reminder of the grand old days of resorts. Dinner is semi-formal, which means packing a suit for my husband, but it will be worth it. I can’t wait to see what will inspire a book there.

Because of the inherent cost of overseas travel and the fact that we can’t predict the future and what may happen down the road, we were able to combine our visit to the family with a cruise around the British Isles. When you read this, I’ll be walking the streets of Southampton, getting ready to board the ship tomorrow. Here’s our map. Our first stop will be in Portland. The scheduled excursion will take me to Stonehenge. I won’t have any problem finding inspiration there, nor in any of the other places we’ll visit. On my birthday, we’ll be in Stornoway, visiting the second monolithic site in the British Isles.

Am I excited about this trip? Absolutely, but I’m also a little bit nervous. The world has changed since the last time we traveled in January, 2019. People are warier, health concerns are higher, but we’re going into this with an open mind–I’m still packing masks and hand sanitizer. Come back next month to see how my European vacation turned out.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for great summer reading, check out, Unforgettable Love: Unforgettable Wonder with my newest novel, Beneath the Ashes

See you in August!

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About Susanne Matthews

I'm a retired high school English teacher turned author. I'm Canadian. My husband and I have been married 48 years and have 3 children and 5 grandchildren, as well as 2 step-grandchildren.  I enjoy traveling, especially somewhere warm in winter.

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